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Are Car Accidents More Common in the United States When Compared to Other Countries?

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Are Car Accidents More Common in the United States When Compared to Other Countries?

Are Car Accidents More Common in the United States When Compared to Other Countries?

May 7, 2021

Car accidents are an unfortunate part of modern life. Despite advancing technology, new laws, and public safety campaigns, motor vehicle accidents of all kind still happen every day. Thankfully, however, because of such steps, a car accident in 2021 doesn’t guarantee a serious injury or fatality like it did decades ago.

But where does the U.S. rank among other developed nations in terms of annual car accidents? Do we have a lower fatality rate when compared to other countries? Let’s take a look at car accident statistics for the United States and compare those numbers with other places around the globe.

Annual Car Accidents in the United States

In 2019, the United States experienced 33,244 fatal motor vehicle crashes. Those 33,244 crashes resulted in 36,096 deaths. Statistically, that equates to 11.0 deaths per 100,000 Americans, and 1.11 deaths per 100 million miles traveled. Among the 50 states (as well as Washington D.C.), the fatality rate per 100,000 people ranged from 3.3 in the District of Columbia to 25.4 in Wyoming. The death rate per 100 million miles traveled ranged from 0.51 in Massachusetts to 1.73 in South Carolina. Let’s explore those numbers in greater detail.

In California, we love our cars. Given the sheer size of the Golden State, we also need automobiles and motorcycles (and trucks, scooters, etc.) to get from Point A to Point B. With a reported 39,512,223 residents in 2019, we managed to travel 340,836 million miles. That equals a lot of traffic along our roads and highways, many of which can be quite dangerous. California averages 1.06 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2019 – much safer than the 1.73 average in South Carolina, but we could certainly improve given the 0.51 average of Massachusetts.

Of the 3,316 fatal car accidents that occurred in California in 2019, 3,606 tragic deaths resulted. That equates to 9.1 motor vehicle deaths per 100,000 Californians. Though we had the highest number of fatal car accidents that year, Texas actually took the dubious distinction of accumulating the most fatalities with 3,615 (just nine greater than California, however).

How Common are Car Accidents Worldwide?

How Common are Car Accidents Worldwide?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while road traffic crashes are one of several leading causes of death in the United States for people aged 1-54, motor vehicle collisions are actually the leading cause of non-natural death for U.S. citizens residing or traveling abroad.

In terms of overall figures for global car accidents, the CDC confirms the following:

  • 1.35 million people are killed on roadways around the world every year.
  • Every day, almost 3,700 people are killed globally in crashes involving cars, buses, motorcycles, bicycles, trucks, or pedestrians.
  • More than half of those killed are pedestrians, motorcyclists, or cyclists.
  • Motor vehicle crash injuries are estimated to be the eighth leading cause of death globally for all age groups.
  • Motor vehicle crash injuries are estimated to be the leading cause of death for children and young people aged five to 29.
  • Around the world, more people now die in motor vehicle crashes every year than from HIV/AIDS.

The estimated cost of worldwide motor vehicle crashes is extreme. According to the CDC, fatal and nonfatal motor vehicle crash injuries will cost the world economy approximately $1.8 trillion dollars between 2015 and 2030. That figure is the equivalent of a yearly tax of 0.12% on global GDP (gross domestic product).

How Did the COVID-19 Pandemic Impact Car Accidents Worldwide?

While the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns actually led to an uptick in traffic fatalities – both in California and throughout the U.S. – the reverse effect occurred in various countries around the world. Forbes recently reported that many parts of the world saw traffic fatalities decrease sharply in the early part of 2020.

The number of people who died in motor vehicle crashes dropped significantly during the lockdown period last spring, falling on average by about a third. Some countries reported a nearly 80% reduction in car accident victims in April 2020 (compared to April the previous year). The strongest drops appeared to correlate with the countries that had the most stringent lockdown policies in place. For example:

  • New Zealand (-80% road deaths reported)
  • Italy (-79% road deaths reported)
  • South Africa (-78% road deaths reported)

The numbers from the Forbes article were initially published in a traffic safety report released by the International Transport Forum (ITF), a Paris-based intergovernmental organization with 62 member countries within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The ITF’s Road Safety Annual Report 2020 represents an annual examination of worldwide road traffic data.

In an effort to improve road safety, the analysis looked at overall traffic trends and developments based on factors like mortality and injury rates, age, road types, and legislation. The 2020 report also examined the impact of COVID-19 on road safety.

Some of the highlights from the ITF’s 2020 report include:

  • 10 nations had their fewest number of road deaths ever recorded.
  • Fewer people were killed in crashes, but the rate of reduction slowed.
  • Fatality rates fell by two thirds or more in half of the countries analyzed.
  • Crash deaths among car passengers fell more sharply than other modes of transportation (motorcycle, truck, scooter, bus, etc.).
  • Rural roads were the most deadly, with the majority of traffic fatalities occurring there.
  • Managing speed is considered a key factor for safety outcomes, with several countries reporting excessive speed as an issue during COVID-19 lockdowns.

In the final analysis, the reduction in motor vehicle crashes was substantial from a historical standpoint. However, it was not in proportion with the fall in overall traffic numbers (meaning the improved fatality numbers should have been statistically better given the lack of cars, trucks, and motorcycles on the roads and highways).

The ITF identified specific factors that may have contributed to the disparity:

  • Empty streets led to more drivers speeding and practicing other forms of irresponsible behavior.
  • Though there were fewer passenger cars on the roads during the lockdowns, there were actually many more trucks (and crashes with those trucks tended to be more serious than those involving cars).
  • There was much less enforcement of traffic rules, with police focusing on other pandemic-related priorities.

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Which Demographics are Most Impacted by Global Car Accidents/Motor Vehicle Crashes?

The CDC confirms that low and middle-income countries (LMICs) are most affected by motor vehicle crashes. To further illustrate that point, the CDC released the following statistics:

  • The motor vehicle crash death rate is over three times higher in low-income countries than in high-income countries.
  • There were no reductions in the number of crash deaths in any low-income country from 2013 to 2016.
  • LMICs only account for 60% of the world’s registered vehicles, but more than 90% of the world’s crash deaths.
  • Crash injuries place a major economic burden on LMICs.
  • It is estimated that LMICs will experience approximately $834 billion dollars in economic losses from 2015 to 2030 due to fatal and nonfatal motor vehicle crash injuries.

How Are Countries Working to Reduce Global Car Accidents?

Motor vehicle crashes are a public health concern both in the United States and around the world. Car accident and other motor vehicle crash injuries/fatalities are preventable, and many world leaders are making efforts to reduce both. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that by 2030, the Agenda for Sustainable Development has set an ambitious target of reducing the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic crashes by 50%.

To meet such an aspiration, the CDC identified specific steps for increasing safe driving and reducing motor vehicle crash fatalities at home and abroad. Whether you are a driver, passenger, cyclist, or pedestrian, the CDC advises that we all take steps to stay safe on the roads.

The CDC’s Steps for Road Safety at Home and Abroad:

  • On every trip – regardless of the distance – always use a seat belt.
  • Whether you are in the front seat or the back seat of a vehicle, always buckle up.
  • Children should always ride in car seats.
  • Parents/adults should always be sure children are properly buckled in a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt that is appropriate for their age, height, and weight.
  • Children should always be buckled in the back seat of a vehicle.
  • When driving or riding on motorcycles, motorbikes, scooters, or bicycles, always wear a properly-fitting helmet.
  • Never drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs, and always avoid riding with a driver who is impaired.
  • Obey speed limits at all times.
  • Drive without distractions – never use a phone to text, email, or access social media while driving.
  • Always be alert when crossing streets, especially in countries where motorists drive on the left side of the road.
  • When traveling in the U.S. or abroad, always ride in clearly marked taxis (and make every effort to ride in taxis that have seat belts).
  • Avoid riding in overcrowded, overweight, or top-heavy buses or minivans.
  • Check the Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT) website for information about driving hazards and road safety risks posed by individual countries.
  • On the U.S. Department of State website, visit the country information page for more information about road safety, overall safety, and personal security in every country throughout the world.
  • The last two bullets provide links to excellent safety information that can help keep you and your family safe while traveling abroad.

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    The Dordulian Law Group Car Accident Advantage for Injured Victims

    While we sincerely hope the information above will help you stay safe and avoid car accidents, when living in the Los Angeles-area (or anywhere in California for that matter), car accidents can often be unavoidable. You may be the safest, most experienced driver on the road, never having so much as a parking lot fender bender in your driving history.

    But you can’t control the actions of other drivers, and reckless driving, distracted driving, speeding, and more occurs every day on California’s occasionally dangerous roads and highways. In the event of an unfortunate car accident, be sure to put your claim in the hands of a trusted firm with decades of experience successfully obtaining maximum financial damages awards for its clients.

    DLG was founded by Sam Dordulian, a former Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney. Dordulian created DLG with the belief that all Californians should have access to top-rated, experienced, and dedicated legal representation. Our no win/no fee guarantee means car, truck, scooter, or motorcycle accident victims never need to worry about upfront costs or hidden fees. With DLG, clients never pay a thing until we recover a maximum financial settlement or verdict on their behalf.

    With a 98% success rate and over $100,000,000 recovered for injured victims, DLG’s skill and dedication is unmatched. After a car accident – in your hour of need – turn to an experienced law firm you can trust. Choose a firm that will fight to ensure your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering are properly covered in a maximum damages award, allowing you to completely recover – physically, emotionally, and financially.

    Contact us online for a free consultation today or call 818-322-4056.


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